The Top 3 Highest-Rated Protein Bars

I’ll admit it – I’ve fallen victim to trendy, celebrity-endorsed diet fads that promise the golden ticket to increased energy, lean muscle mass or endless fat-burning power. After trying countless gritty protein powders and bloat-inducing nutrition bars (which I combined with strenuous workouts and a balanced diet), I was only left with disappointment. Not only was I nowhere near having the physique of a sculpted athlete, but I had wasted all my allotted snack breaks with chalky, tasteless products that may have rated low on the glycemic index but definitely rated high on the “bleh” scale.

So, I set out to scour the shelves of my local natural foods stores, GNCs and Vitamin Shoppes in hopes of finding tasty, nutritious protein bars that met all of my criteria.

First, they had to be high in protein. Yes, this is easy to find in many of the bars on the market today, but I’m talking about quality protein that is highly digestible, easily absorbed and has a stellar amino acid profile.

Second, they had to be low in carbohydrates and sugar. Many protein bars and powders, high-fiber snack bars, and baked good replacements taste great, but only because they are loaded with refined sugar and simple carbohydrates. The goal was to find protein bars with the lowest amount of net carbs and no added sugar.

Finally, they had to have the right texture. If you’re like me, you’re sensitive to the texture, density and overall “mouth feel” of foods. This is huge, because I am not a fan of airy, crispy snack bars that leave me feeling completely unsatisfied because they’re not dense or “hearty” enough.

After indexing these must-haves in my mind, I began my quest and was pleasantly surprised with what I found:

Protein Bars

1) D’s Naturals No Cow Bars

Around the same time I embarked on this protein pilgrimage, I caught the tail end of a segment on “Good Morning America” touting the delightful creations of 19-year-old Daniel Katz, Founder & CEO of D’s Naturals. After watching in awe as he described his all-natural vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free protein bars that are “ridiculously low sugar” (each bar contains just one gram) and high in protein (protein content ranges from 20-22 grams per bar), I knew I had to check them out. At this time, only four flavors existed, including Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Raspberry Truffle, Blueberry Cobbler, and Mint Cocao Chip, so I stocked up at my local GNC. Mint Cocoa Chip quickly became my favorite, as its flavor profile, texture and bits of crunchy cocao excited my mouth and satisfied my hunger pangs. I couldn’t believe how low in calories and fat they were, and that they actually tasted as sweet as they did. To my delight, the company recently added four more flavors to their collection, which are already gracing the shelves of my pantry. These include Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Banana Bread, Dark Raspberry Truffle, and Lemon Meringue Pie. Give these a try and I bet you’ll fall in love at first bite!

2) Oh Yeah! One Bar

It took me a while to stumble upon this bar, but once I tried the Chocolate Brownie OhYeah! ONE bar, I was hooked. The perfectly rich taste and texture, the soft chocolatey coating and the absence of any artificial aftertaste make this bar rate high on my list. This particular flavor is also one of the lowest in calories and fat among the collection, coming in at just 210 calories and less than 7 grams of fat. I couldn’t believe this bar contained only one gram of sugar, because its flavor profile is incredible! It combines the perfect pairing of sweetness and heartiness in a filling on-the-go meal that satisfies your hunger and your sweet tooth. For those of you who aren’t big on decadent chocolate, the ONE bar comes in a number of other flavors, including Almond Bliss, Lemon Cake, Cinnamon Roll, Birthday Cake, and Peanut Butter Pie, among others. The most recent addition to their collection, Chocolate Birthday Cake, is not only delightfully rich, but is also topped with sprinkles that add an extra bit of crunch and color, making you feel like you’re eating dessert. Each bar is packed with 20-22 grams of a whey protein isolate/milk protein isolate blend, providing quality, hunger-satisfying protein.

3) MusclePharm Combat Crunch Bars

Every time I visited a GNC store, the eye-catching packaging of these intense-looking bars would leave me intrigued. I hesitated to try them, however, because I assumed by their size and the crunchy coating advertised on the wrapper that they were high in sugar and carbohydrates. While waiting in line to purchase my other favorites one day, I overheard some fellow health enthusiasts raving about Combat Crunch bars as they dumped handfuls of them onto the service counter. One gal even jumped in the air…literally…as she held the Cinnamon Twist flavor in her hand and exclaimed how excited she was that GNC carried this particular variety. At that point, my curiosity peaked, so I turned to the shelf where they were stocked. I picked up a random flavor and immediately flipped it over to examine the nutrition facts. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only this bar, but all other flavors of Combat Crunch bars, contained just 210 calories and only 5 grams of sugar! The outside coating gives the bar an extra layer of flavor and crunch, while the inside is dense but soft. I enjoyed the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cinnamon Twist flavors the most, but often pick up their other flavors when I want to mix it up. The full line also includes Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Cookies ‘N Cream and White Chocolate Raspberry. Of course, like all of the protein bars and snacks I consume, these are gluten free and high in fiber.

Whether you’re looking for a quick snack between meetings, a post-workout recharge or a filling meal replacement, each of these protein bars offers a sweet combination of satisfying nutrition and delicious taste. They are the quintessential protein bars for the non-protein-bar type of person who wants a great-tasting snack without any fillers, additives, artificial aftertastes or judgment!


4 Steps to Living Happily Gluten Free

By now, you’ve it heard over and over again – through the media, in national health magazines, and from nutrition experts far and wide – gluten is a healthy diet no-no. Whether you’re gluten intolerant or have a natural sensitivity to the protein found in wheat products, consuming foods containing gluten can wreak havoc on your body’s systems. If you’re trying to improve your diet by banishing wheat products and learning more about the impact that gluten has on your body, don’t think you’re alone in this journey to better health. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity and need to tweak their diets in order to maintain a happy, healthy gut.

Fortunately, finding gluten-free foods at your local grocery store is MUCH easier today than it was just a few years ago. Most of your favorite carbohydrates are made in gluten-free versions, such as cereal, crackers, sweets, and even bread! Other products that aren’t made in “gluten-free” versions can still be healthy for you, as long as you know what to look for.

Before I get into the four key steps to living happily gluten free, let’s examine exactly what gluten is and how it affects your body. According to Dr. Arthur Agatston, cardiologist and developer of the South Beach Diet, gluten is the major protein that is found in many grain products, as well as all forms of wheat, barley and rye. For those who are sensitive or intolerant, consuming foods containing gluten can make them feel ill, damage the lining of the small intestine, and contribute to a number of health problems, including chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramping, osteoporosis, and even cancer.

So how do you skip the suffering and keep your digestive system in tip-top shape? Start with these easy-to-follow steps for living happily gluten free:

1. Check the Label

Most gluten-free products today will specify on the package whether they are gluten-free or not. If it’s not obvious on the packaging with a circled “GF” symbol, check the ingredient list for your main culprits: wheat, barley, rye, etc. Some of my favorite gluten-free brands include Udi’s, Bob’s Red Mill and Glutino.

fruitsandveggies2. Eat Fresh

Maintaining a balanced diet chock full of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a healthy assortment of lean meats and cheese, is the most natural sure-fire path to a happy belly. Gluten is often found in highly processed foods found in plastic packaging or freezer aisles, so on your next visit to the grocery store, peruse the produce and be nice to your butcher!

3. Moderation is Key

Do you ever try to cut something out of your diet completely with good intentions only to find yourself binging on it three days later? Don’t fall into this all-too-common trap! Carbohydrates are a KEY part of a balanced diet, so DON’T feel like you have to ditch them all to stay healthy. Gluten-free grains come in all types of delicious varieties, including millet, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and popcorn, just to name a few. By allowing these into your diet – in moderation – you’ll satisfy your carb craving without offsetting your body’s balance.

Bobs Red Mill All Purpose Flour 5004. Make Substitutions

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of staying truly gluten free is when you’re dining out. Unless you’re planning on eating at a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-friendly restaurant, most establishments don’t offer gluten-free menu options. You can, however, ask for substitutions or modify your order to make it gluten free. For example, swap grains for veggies, skip the heavy sauces and stick to proteins. When cooking or baking at home, you can substitute all-purpose flour for white rice, millet or chickpea flour and still make the same great-tasting treats you grew up on.

Whether you’re grocery shopping, dining out or cooking at home, there are countless options to keep your menu free of gluten. The key is staying open-minded and keeping it creative. In the end, your tummy will thank you!